Claire King


Heads up, everybody!

Posted on: April 22nd, 2011 by Claire - 22 Comments

Most days, when I’m running (or walking) the view looks something like this.

And this is what I’m thinking…

  • I’m about half way around now.
  • I must post that letter when I get home.
  • How do I improve that short story I’m writing?
  • I wonder if my invoice has been paid today.
  • How do I develop the conflict in this novel I’m writing.
  • I must answer that e-mail. How to best phrase my response?
  • What will we have for dinner? Shall I shop first or get the ironing out of the way?
  • Where’ve those dogs got to?
  • It’s getting hot, I ought to have another drink of water.
  • No, but really, how would that character react in that situation…

Then sometimes, occasionally, I remember that I’m not driving a car. That I am allowed to take my eyes off the road. And that I can lift my focus away from the path and from where I’m putting my feet. I remember where I am, what I am doing. And then this is the view.


After that I’m no longer thinking about all the things I have to do. I can take a few deep breaths and then get back to concentrating on one thing, which for me is always mulling over the story I’m writing.

Now, I know that not everyone has this particular view, but it does work in towns and cities too. Even in supermarkets. Try it. Zoom out from your focus, from the pavement or the people in front of you or the shortest distance between you and your objective, and have a look around. See the big picture that you’re in. Change your perspective, notice your environment and see what effect that has.

NB – I still don’t advise this while driving!

I think that this applies also to writing fiction. Sometimes we can get too caught up in propelling our characters through their character arc and forget that although they may be the focus of the story, they are still part of a bigger context. Pulling out from a tight character viewpoint and bringing in the bigger picture is not a change of location, or a change of scene, but a change of  perspective. It acknowledges the world in which the narrative is taking place. And for the reader it can offer a moment’s rest.

I bet in screenwriting there is a name for this. Does anyone know?


22 Responses

  1. A credible context is everything; realistic characters are borne into them/ emerge from them. It is, after all, how our worlds work anyway. We are shaped by the world we are borne into. When I wrote an historical novel on 16th C Spain & S America, I did a lot of research to get a real understanding of what that ‘world’ was like & how people experienced their reality/culture. The characters and plot then emerged quite naturally into it and as a consquence of it. I think sometimes people make a mistake of dreaming up their ‘ideal’ characters first & then trying to invent a world around them.
    Lovely place you live by the way; it must be very nurturing & inspirationa!

    • claire says:

      It’s a really good point, if you take a character out of one place and plonk them down in another, chances are they will behave differently, at least in some respects. One of the reasons we live here, in fact and yes, it’s very inspirational and calming.

  2. Trish Nicholson says:

    I don’t know the term, but we don’t need it: you explain it beautifully. And it applies to so much else as well as writing ones WIP. Thank you.

  3. Trish Nicholson says:

    I think I am supposed to say who I am? @trishanicholson 🙂

  4. Martha says:

    OMG is that the inside of your head?! On a run?

    During mine, I think:

    Lovely view, lovely sky, lovely breeze. Yayyyy, look at me.
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    What’s that weird stomach-flapping sensation? Could it be FAT? Hmm… don’t look at me.
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    Flap flop flubber… cor, my knee feels owy. Ow, ow, ow.
    Breathe in big, breathe out big.
    Running is bad for my internals, I can sense it, I know, I’ll walk.
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    Now, where was I…?
    Oh, hell, where AM I?
    Did I bring the dog?
    Breathe in, breathe out.
    I should sit down.
    Wish I’d brought some crisps.

  5. running… wossat?

    (I love the thinking here.. it feels so right.)


  6. Great advice. Just wish I had the view! Seriously though, too many of us stare at the ground when we walk/run. I agree with you, look up, take in the wider picture, relax and let your mind expand. Lovely piece as always, Claire. Thanks.

  7. Claudia Watts says:

    But if you look at the ground, you get to spot mining bees and wasps and all the associated parasitic creatures that lurk around the burrows. And ants and lizards and and…

  8. Mike Clarke says:

    I went for a run last autumn along the Ridgeway in a wood not far from Chequers.

    I must have been having some abstract thoughts about my writing as I wasn’t looking at the tree roots and hollows under my feet and suddenly my feet left the ground and I went flying through the air, landing on some exposed flints.

    Fortunately, I was OK barring some scratches on my hands and knees but the bleeding from these looked quite impressive. I staggered down the hill, passing a few walkers, who must have wondered what I’d just been doing, and sorted myself out by the road outside the Chequers grounds — with the security cameras taking quite an interest in the extra from a horror film that had just emerged from the woods.

    Despite the temporary pain, that change of focus did give me a bit of inspiration for an episode in the novel I’m writing.

  9. Charlotte Abel says:

    Thanks for the inspiring post and pics. I need to get out more.

  10. Matt Roberts says:

    A change of focus is often good, and if nothing else, can give you a bit of extra inspiration if you’re suffering a little writer’s block. Writing something a bit different is as good for you as a writer as it is for your characters and story.

    It’s been said, but I’ll say it again – what a view! What. A. View.

  11. Susan says:

    Trouble is, both the views you have selected look just as nice 🙂

  12. Marisa Birns says:

    Yes, oh yes. It is important to take the time to blink one’s gaze away from each tree and see the forest.

    Gorgeous views you have. Whether you are staring at the road or at the panorama.

    • claire says:

      It’s true the views are lovely even looking at the path, but often I get all the way round and remember I forgot to appreciate the ‘big’ view, and feel a small pang of regret!

  13. Don’t know the name in screenwriting, but it’s a bit like Zooming Out.
    I loved this post, great advice. I often get stuck and can’t see further than the tip of my nose.

  14. Linda G. says:

    Good post! A change of perspective, the shifting of focus — these are essential to keeping the reader interested.

Leave a Reply